- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

There were, Jon Jansen insisted, no positives to come out of this one.

True, Jansen and the Washington Redskins staged a dramatic rally to send yesterday’s game against the New York Giants into overtime and give the 84,856 at FedEx Field reason to believe something magical was about to happen.

Dramatic rallies don’t mean anything, though, if you don’t complete them. And while there will be some today who want to focus on the encouraging signs from Washington’s 24-21 loss, Jansen knows the Redskins were fortunate simply to have a chance to win after such a poor collective effort.

“If we had won this one, everyone would have said what a good team we are that we came back,” Washington’s right tackle said. “But when it comes down to it, we’d still be the same team, just a little bit luckier.”

After pulling out a couple of inspiring victories the previous two weeks, the Redskins ran out of luck yesterday. Despite their best efforts to rally from an 18-point second-half deficit, they could not overcome a world of early mistakes.

In the process, Washington missed its opportunity to take an early lead in the NFC East race. The Redskins and Giants now share first place in the division at 2-1 each, with Dallas (1-1) and Philadelphia (0-2) lurking not far behind.

Technically, yesterday’s game was won by New York kicker Matt Bryant, who drilled a 29-yard field goal 4:15 into overtime. In reality, the Redskins know the game was decided long before the extra period.

“It never should have come to that,” wide receiver Darnerien McCants said.

Washington will be kicking itself all week for its ugly first-half performance, one that was filled with missed opportunities, poor decisions and penalty after penalty after penalty.

The Redskins tied a franchise record by being flagged 17 times for an astounding 142 yards, a number of infractions that had not been reached in 55 years. Worse still, some of the more damaging penalties came in some of the game’s most critical situations — two directly prevented Washington from scoring 10 first-half points, while another contributed immensely to the Giants’ third touchdown.

Redskins coach Steve Spurrier vowed from the first day of training camp to solve his team’s penalty woes. His words have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, and Spurrier is running out of ideas to solve the problem.

“I guess we’ve got to start fining guys who do things like that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s that hard to play within the rules, but we’re having a tough time doing that right now.”

The shoddy play cost Washington from the game’s opening drive. The Redskins were in field-goal range after quarterback Patrick Ramsey hit McCants for a 21-yard gain to the Giants’ 21. McCants, though, was flagged for taunting safety Johnnie Harris after the play, pushing the ball back to the 36 and ultimately forcing Spurrier to punt.

A few minutes later, Ramsey floated a pretty pass down the sideline to Rod Gardner for what appeared to be a 30-yard touchdown. Before the Redskins could celebrate, though, referee Johnny Grier signaled holding on tackle Chris Samuels, negating the score. Washington had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by John Hall, giving the home team its lone lead of the game, 3-0.

The Giants responded with a methodic 74-yard drive, capped by the first of Kerry Collins’ two touchdown passes to Ike Hilliard. They then made it 14-3 on a 54-yard bomb from Collins to receiver Amani Toomer.

The real killer, from the Redskins’ perspective, came late in the first half when the Giants came up well short on third-and-24 from their 29. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, though, got in a shoving match with guard Rich Seubert and was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty gave the Giants a first down, moved them across midfield and ultimately led to Collins’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Hilliard.

“It was stupid,” Trotter said. “I got hit late in the back and I retaliated. I’ve got to just stay poised in that situation. … I think that was the difference in the ballgame.”

After the grotesque first half, which included Ramsey completing just five of 15 passes for 80 yards, the Redskins somehow managed to turn things around.

As poorly as Ramsey played in the first half, the resilient quarterback rebounded to lead three scoring drives in the final 24 minutes of regulation. He found McCants in the end zone for a 4-yard score to make it 21-10 late in the third quarter, then hit Rod Gardner for a 6-yard touchdown with 2:27 to go in the fourth quarter. Ramsey’s deft 2-point conversion to McCants, in which he scrambled right then left before spotting the open receiver, cut New York’s lead to three and set the stage for a thrilling finish.

Washington’s defense forced the Giants into a three-and-out, and Ramsey took over at his 28 with 2:01 to go. He immediately connected with Laveranues Coles on a 21-yard gain that sent Coles (seven catches, 105 yards) into triple digits for the third straight week, then floated a pass to McCants that turned into a 32-yard gain. John Hall, who missed two long field-goal attempts earlier in the game, made a 33-yarder with 13 seconds left, tying the game and sending it to overtime.

Ramsey, who wound up 23 of 45 for 348 yards, never got the ball back. The Giants won the coin toss and marched down the field. Collins hit a wide-open Jim Finn for a 27-yard gain to the Washington 20.

“We ran the play the drive before. … We knew it was going to be wide open,” Finn said. “No one was covering me. It was pretty simple.”

Two plays later, Giants coach Jim Fassel sent Bryant out on second-and-goal to kick the game winner and send the reeling Redskins away with their first loss of the season.

“I think we’ll find out a lot about our football team,” Ramsey said. “We’re going to find that we’ll persevere, push through and play well. We’ll overcome it.”

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